University of Chicago Medicine Breast Cancer June 2022

SW Regional Publishing Peoples MORTGAGE Banner Ad 728x90 03 31 22

Incarnation School in Palos Heights to close

Amid impassioned pleas and shouts of criticism, the faithful at Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights learned unequivocally last Thursday that their school will permanently close in June.

And now many parents and students are wondering where they’ll go to continue a Catholic education.
“Does anyone feel that the Archdiocese went through the motions and took advantage of us?” shouted Jim Breslin to applause from many of the more than 125 people who were present last Thursday at Incarnation Church to hear a presentation by an Archdiocese of Chicago official.
“I feel like we didn’t get the chance,” rang out a voice from the rear of the church. “Why not give us two more weeks?”
Two more weeks of precious time is what parents and supporters of Incarnation School, 5757 W. 127th St., were hoping to obtain from the Archdiocese as it prepared its list of anticipated school closings.
Officially released last week, the list included five schools—four in the suburbs—including Incarnation and Our Lady of The Ridge School in Chicago Ridge, which temporarily staved off a threat of closing last year with a huge fundraising effort and enrollment drive that proved short-lived.
The Incarnation community had rallied in recent months in an attempt to avert a closing of its own school, raising more than $50,000 in donations in one day alone earlier this month at a gala fundraiser that drew more than 600 people.
To date, the drive has collected at least $153,000 in addition to money already in the bank but Archdiocese officials called for a total of $600,000 to cover costs of the 2017/18 school year and the proposed 2018/19 school year. Parents said enough money for all but next year’s expenses is on hand; that some money for next year’s expenses is already banked; and that they were well on their way to acquiring the rest.
The goal of school supporters and organizers of the fundraising efforts was to buy just a bit more time, they said, to keep off the closure list and be seen as a viable option for parents of the Our Lady of The Ridge (OLR) school to enroll their children at Incarnation. The schools are three miles apart.
The number of students at each school is below the mandate of the Archdiocese, but Incarnation supporters felt that a combined enrollment would keep their school alive.
But their dreams were not realized.
IncarnationArchdioceseSpokesman
Photo by Anthony Caciopo
Tom McGrath, CEO of Chicago Catholic Schools, talks about the decision to close Incarnation School this coming June, citing low enrollment and lack of sustaining funds.
“We recognize the pain and emotion that is present,” said Tom McGrath, chief executive officer of Chicago Catholic Schools as he opened last Thursday’s meeting. “There’s not enough church-going demand to fill (some) Catholic schools. That’s the heart and the sadness behind—in part—what you are experiencing in your parish school.”
McGrath used a projector and a screen to show a graph of Incarnation enrollment since 2013, a downward trajectory that began at 211 students and ended with the current count of 143.
“We see this decline at many, many schools in the Archdiocese, notwithstanding excellent programs,” he said.
Barely more than a handful of minutes into the meeting that ultimately lasted two hours, the congregation began pushing back on McGrath.
“I don’t want to hear your numbers now,” said a parent. “I want to know what I need to do going forward with my child.”
The uncertainty and anger expressed by many parents who wondered how they can continue Catholic education for their children made for an unusual scene inside a normally reverent and quiet place of worship.
McGrath’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by attendees who challenged him and the Archdiocese at virtually every turn. The CEO for the most part let the meeting attendees speak their minds as comments flew from pew to pew, some in controlled tones and some with palpable emotion.
No parishioners at the meeting argued with the reality of declining numbers in enrollment. Rather, they felt that church officials, even their own pastor, knew long ago how dire the circumstances were becoming and did little or nothing to communicate the financial concerns to the congregation and create a plan to fix the situation.
The Incarnation School Board was visited last September by representatives from the Archdiocese, who informed board members of the school’s very precarious condition. Many in the Incarnation community said they were caught completely off-guard.
How did we get to this spot?” said Colleen Breslin. “A select few people were of this knowledge. The rest of the people, although we were in church and heard the financial system wasn’t great…never was it put forth. The parish has always supported the school, so why would we think anything different?”
“If you knew about this decline for say, 7-10 years, where has the planning from the Archdiocese been?” said another woman.
Linda O’Leary, who has a daughter attending Incarnation, said “It’s up to your administration to come to the parents. We didn’t get that. From 2015 until now, can you imagine what we would have done to keep our school open if our parents knew about it?”
CEO McGrath told the attendees, “Back in 2015, to lose 50 kids in two years, nobody expected that to occur. The Archdiocese can’t pay for empty seats. We’ll bankrupt ourselves, we’ll bankrupt our schools.”
Addressing the prospect of Incarnation and Our Lady combining enrollments, McGrath gave an example from recent years of six Archdiocese schools that were scheduled to be combined. Two chose to “go it alone,” he said, leaving four parishes to be combined into two locations.
“Of the two locations that closed (of the four remaining), what percentage of families went to the newly defined school?” he asked. “Twenty percent. There was a lot of flight from the schools they felt had lost.”
Speaking on behalf of Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich, said McGrath, “that figure was a key litmus test in saying ‘how can we do this.’”
Parishioners pointed out two schools in Lemont, St. Al’s and St. Pat’s, that had successfully combined.
“Other parishes have tried and some have held on,” said McGrath. “This is only solved in the medium-term with tons of extra cash. You can’t really grow out of this (via enrollment) in our environment,” he said, claiming there would always be a massive capital debt annually, citing demographics that show the school-age population is declining.
“Even if the school (Incarnation) had recruited 40 more kids, the cash component was still well more than a quarter million dollars unraised,” McGrath said.
Another factor working against a proposed Incarnation/OLR combination is timing, he said.
“Say we (the Archdiocese) said ‘Let’s give them until March 31,’ and you hit March 31 and you don’t make it (sufficient enrollment and fundraising). Then, families may be unable to get to the school they want and they’ll be scrambling,” McGrath said.
“Even if you assume that the OLR community would come here with the knowledge of risk, it’s a huge assumption, it really is, that the OLR families would move from their situation in large numbers to another one not unlike it. It was not a high expectation,” McGrath said.
There were few voices at the meeting that were contrary to the majority point of view, but a man identified as “Mike” said the school’s predicament was no surprise to him.
“I understand tensions are high,” he said. “I got married on that altar 20 years ago. I’ve sat here 20 years in a row and listened to that stewardship report and every time it has been that the school has been underperforming.
“I realize it’s probably not a popular thing in this room, but it’s unfair to characterize this current leadership as being the only problem. I’ve heard time and time again that the school is a financial draw on the parish.”
By “current leadership,” Mike was referring to Rev. Arek Fallan, Incarnation’s pastor since 2015. Fallan was strongly criticized at the meeting by at least two parents who questioned whether he withheld information about the seriousness of the school’s situation.
Fallan sat in the first occupied pew at the meeting and did not speak.
With McGrath’s first slide about the decline in enrollment still on the screen after almost two hours, the microphone was turned over to Rev. Ronald Mass, who retired as pastor at Incarnation three-and-a-half years ago.
Mass, a seemingly beloved person by most, if not all Incarnation parishioners, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the school’s drive to stay open. But with emotions running high throughout the lengthy meeting, he sought to soothe.
“There’s all kinds of people here who are heavily invested in the parish and the school and there’s some who really worked their tails off the last few months,” he said.
“It didn’t work. Could things have been done differently along the line? Sure. I could have done things differently. How many conversations did I have when I was still pastor about how many years we have left,” Mass said.
“The patient was sick. The school was on the edge. We talked about that. Enrollment declined even more the last couple years. It was a trend every year,” he said.
“The parish school I went to closed,” said Mass, who has been a priest in the Archdiocese for 48 years. “The school of my young priesthood—closed. The school where I first pastored—closed. Even the parish I administered for six months—closed. It’s just inevitable. I think everyone is doing their best to see what they can do, to hold it together as best they can.
“Finally, I think, Cardinal Supich has got the devil by the tail,” he said, referring to the Archdiocese’s Renew My Church initiative. “I think he’s trying to do something solid and visionary, and that’s not always easy.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago, the third largest in the United States, serves more than 2.2 million Catholics in 344 parishes in Cook and Lake Counties, a geographic area of 1,411 square miles, according to the organization’s news releases. More than 76,00 students are enrolled in 214 Catholic schools.
“Things are going to change and people are going to have losses. That’s going to hurt. What we need to do is fall back on our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ, we have to be open to the Holy Spirit, and where the Spirit is going to move us, we don’t know.”
Shortly before Rev. Mass told the meeting attendees to hold hands and come together in prayer, he said “We worked hard to preserve the past, and now we’ve got to work hard to create the future.”

 

Local News

Rich Miller

Winners, losers in General Assembly races

By Rich Miller The four Illinois legislative leaders did not have a spectacular primary day last week. House Speaker Chris Welch lost three incumbents to primary challengers. Senate President Don Harmon lost an appointed incumbent and an open seat race. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin lost two incumbents and came up short in some other…

reichman jewelers robbed

Oak Lawn jewelry store employee shot during robbery

By Bob Bong An employee at Reichman Jewelers in Oak Lawn was shot and critically wounded during a robbery Friday afternoon. Oak Lawn police said they responded to an armed robbery at 2 p.m. at the store at 4439 W. 95th St., across the street from Advocate Christ Medical Center. Police said they found one…

happy fourth of july - Copy

Evergreen Park, Summit fireworks kick off fun-filled Fourth of July weekend

By Bob Bong Evergreen Park’s parade and fireworks along with a party in the park and fireworks in Summit and the inaugural four-day Lyons Fest will start off what promises to be a fun-filled and noisy Fourth of July weekend in the area. Evergreen Park Evergreen Park native and Olympic silver medalist, Abbey Murphy, will…

Summit water tower

Summit names acting police chief, public works director

By Carol McGowan Summit Police Lt. Mel Ortiz has been named acting police chief to replace John Kosmowski and Jerry Rosales was appointed interim public works director to replace Bill Mundy. Both Kosmowski and Mundy are on unpaid leave after having been indicted by a federal grand jury. The appointments were announced earlier this month.…

Tatumn Milazzo was named one of the top players in the NWSL in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pro Soccer Report: Milazzo, Pugh named to NWSL’s Best XI for June

  By Jeff Vorva Staff Writer She’s not just the Chicago area’s secret anymore. The progress of Orland Park native Tatumn Milazzo as a professional soccer player is not catching only Chicago’s attention, but that of the NWSL. The second-year Chicago Red Stars defender opened her career seeing a lot of bench time early in…

Back of the Yards graduate Roxy Herrera receives a hug after winning an award for being one of the top goalies in the country on Thursday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Clean Sheet: Back of the Yards grad Roxy Herrera honored as one of top high school goalies in U.S.

Jeff Vorva Staff writer Roxy Herrera thinks she was 9 or 10 years old when she was the new kid on the Pumas soccer team in Gage Park. Thus, she was immediately used as a goalie for the first time in her life. “They told me the new player plays in goal,” Herrera said. “So,…

Democrat Jonathan Jackson (standing, at left) helps his famous father, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. (seated), vote on June 28. --Supplied photo

Jackson, Carlson headed for left-right clash in 1st

Danny Davis triumphs; will be unopposed this fall By Tim Hadac While the Sean Casten-Marie Newman clash of incumbents appeared to draw the most attention of all congressional races on the Southwest Side, two other races made news on June 28. In the battle to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-1st), Jonathan Jackson…

Richard Guebert Jr.

Soil, water quality are everyone’s concern

By Richard Guebert Jr. The heat and humidity may be cranked up during the summer, but Illinois farmers are still hard at work making management decisions on their farms. With corn and soybeans planted across the state each spring, many farmers take time in the hotter months of the year to learn about new, innovative…

Ray Hanania

Sometimes voters get it wrong

By Ray Hanania I have covered elections long enough to know that anything is possible, including seeing the bad guys defeat the good guys. The toughest challenge is getting voters to vote. Turnout is always low. For those voters who do vote, it still all comes down to one principle: you can’t force voters to…

Funeral-Flowers.4 logo

Obituaries June 30, 2022

VINCE BLACK Vince Black, age 52, passed away May 22. Survived by his daughter, Mary “Gabby”, her mother AnneMarie and step-daughters Samantha, Stephanie and Alyssa; dear godfather of Jackson Wertz; fond brother of the late Lance Corporal Larry (the late Joyce) Thompson. Beloved friend of Karen and devoted friend to many. Member of the Carpenters…

Neighbors

AladdinsBanquets WebAd
WITH PODCAST: Pritzker says balanced budget, ‘big things’ remain priority ahead of second term

WITH PODCAST: Pritzker says balanced budget, ‘big things’ remain priority ahead of second term

By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Inflation, crime, pandemic response, abortion rights and Donald Trump are all set to be major issues in the 2022 race for Illinois governor, if the winning candidates’ election night speeches are any guide. “(Gov. JB) Pritzker doesn’t understand how skyrocketing gas prices and soaring food prices…

Justices urge lawmakers to allow more public access to rivers

Justices urge lawmakers to allow more public access to rivers

By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the public has no right to boat, fish or swim in small rivers that flow across private property, but two justices are urging the General Assembly to change that law. “The legislature should redefine navigability to be more inclusive…

Temporary tax relief measures to begin Friday in Illinois

Temporary tax relief measures to begin Friday in Illinois

By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans will receive some modest tax relief starting Friday when the state’s new fiscal year begins. That includes some income tax rebates, property tax rebates, a suspension of the state’s 1 percent tax on groceries, and a six-month pause on the scheduled inflationary increase in the…

UPDATED Bailey wins GOP nomination to challenge Pritzker

UPDATED Bailey wins GOP nomination to challenge Pritzker

By JERRY NOWICKI & PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] State Sen. Darren Bailey, who gained statewide notoriety challenging Gov. JB Pritzker’s pandemic executive order authority in court, will be the incumbent’s challenger in the November general election. As of about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Bailey had carried over 55 percent of the GOP vote from…

CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker to call special session after Roe v. Wade overturned

CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker to call special session after Roe v. Wade overturned

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker will call a special session of the General Assembly in the coming weeks to focus on legislation to strengthen women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health services in Illinois. Pritzker made that announcement Friday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court released an opinion overturning…

6 Republicans vie to unseat Pritzker

6 Republicans vie to unseat Pritzker

By PETER HANCOCK & JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Republican voters in Illinois will choose from six candidates to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker in the upcoming June 28 primary. The field includes a conservative farmer and state lawmakers who is the recent polling frontrunner, the mayor of Illinois’ second largest…

Candidate interview: Alexi Giannoulias looking to reclaim statewide office

Candidate interview: Alexi Giannoulias looking to reclaim statewide office

By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] Illinois voters might know Alexi Giannoulias as the state’s treasurer from 2007 to 2011, or they might know him as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate who lost to Republican Mark Kirk in 2010. He’s now looking to get back into public life as he runs for secretary…

Pritzker to call special session on reproductive rights

Pritzker to call special session on reproductive rights

By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker will call a special session of the General Assembly in the coming weeks to focus on legislation to strengthen women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health services in Illinois. Pritzker made that announcement Friday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court released…

Candidate interview: Anna Valencia running for secretary of state

Candidate interview: Anna Valencia running for secretary of state

By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] This story is part of Capitol News Illinois’ coverage of the race for secretary of state ahead of the Tuesday, June 28 primary. We’re reaching out to the candidates this week to discuss their policy positions and plans for the office should they be elected. Chicago City Clerk…

Republicans see opening in secretary of state race

Republicans see opening in secretary of state race

By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – For the first time in nearly a quarter century, there is an open race for the office of Illinois secretary of state as incumbent Democrat Jesse White prepares to retire, and Republicans hope that will give them an opportunity to pick up a statewide elected office.…

CRR NH Prusak Roofing House Ad
CRR NH Les Brothers Restaurant House Ad